ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.
May 8, 2020
The week of May 4, research activities performed on the International Space Station included preparations for demonstration of small satellite and free-flying robot technology and research into providing crew members with nutritious and appealing food. The current three-member crew includes NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Operating with only one U.S. Orbital Segment (USOS) crew member means less time available for science activities in microgravity, but research continues thanks to careful planning and increased automation.
Image above: A previous Cygnus cargo craft in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm just prior to its release from the space station, showing the Common Berthing Mechanism containing Slingshot, which deploys CubeSats once Cygnus reaches a safe distance from the station. Image Credit: NASA.
Now in its 20th year of continuous human presence, the space station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space. Experience gained on the orbiting lab supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.
Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:
Small satellites sling into space
During the week, crew members prepared Slingshot for operations following the Cygnus departure from the space station, scheduled for Monday, May 11. Slingshot is a small satellite deployment system that fits inside the cargo craft’s Passive Common Berthing Mechanism (PCBM) and can accommodate up to 18 satellites. When Cygnus undocks, it maneuvers approximately 30 to 60 miles above the space station and deploys the satellites. One of those to be deployed, SEOPS-UbiquitiLink, demonstrates two-way connectivity with low-power devices on Earth. This technology could serve as the backbone for future commercial communication services.
Image above: Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin (left) and Ivan Vagner practice cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) during an emergency training session. Crew members and ground teams regularly train for a variety of emergency scenarios in order to remain familiar with medical hardware, safety gear and evacuation paths on the space station. Image Credit: NASA.
Improving the space menu
Space food has come a long way, but the menu aboard the space station has yet to earn four stars. Astronauts who get bored with limited and repetitive choices may eat less and lose weight or develop other health problems. Food Acceptability examines the effect of this “menu fatigue” in order to help develop a better food selection for spaceflight. During the week, crew members filled out questionnaires providing feedback about their food and beverage selections.
Students drive robots in space
Astrobee tests three self-contained, free-flying robots designed to assist astronauts with routine chores, give ground controllers additional eyes and ears and perform crew monitoring, sampling and logistics management. The Kibo Robot Programming Challenge (Robo-Pro Challenge) lets students create programs to control the Astrobees, providing hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering and mathematics in space. It involves cooperation between Japan and the U.S. through the Japan-US Open platform Partnership Program (JP-US OP3). During the week, the crew charged the robot batteries in preparation for Challenge activities coming up in the next few weeks.
Image above: This image from the International Space Station shows the northern central portion of Morocco, a mountainous region bordering the Sahara Desert in northwest Africa. Image Credit: NASA.
Other investigations on which the crew performed work:
- ActiWatch is a wrist device worn by crew members that contains an accelerometer to measure motion and a detector to monitor ambient lighting. The device analyzes circadian rhythms, sleep-wake patterns and activity.
- Radi-N2, a Canadian Space Agency investigation, uses bubble detectors to better characterize the neutron environment on the space station, which could help define the risk this radiation source poses to crew members and provide data necessary to develop advanced protective measures for future spaceflight.
- Thermal Amine Scrubber tests using actively heated and cooled amine beds to remove carbon dioxide from air in the space station. Controlling carbon dioxide levels reduces the likelihood of crew members experiencing symptoms of buildup, including fatigue, headache, breathing difficulties, strained eyes and itchy skin.
Space to Ground: SLIME IN SPACE!!!: 05/08/2020
Expedition 63: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition63/index.html
Food Acceptability: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7562
Robo-Pro Challenge: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7979
ISS National Lab: https://www.issnationallab.org/
Spot the Station: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/
Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/overview.html
International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 63.